Ferry Horns, a Safety Regulation, Cause Disturbance in Battery Park City

Kayakers on the Hudson River last week as a ferry boat passed by. Some kayakers have complained that the boats have not been sounding their horns to warn that they were leaving their docks. Joshua Bright for The New York Times Kayakers on the Hudson River last week as a ferry boat passed by. Some kayakers have complained that the boats have not been sounding their horns to warn that they were leaving their docks.

 

Three years ago, residents of Battery Park City in Lower Manhattan complained about noisy engines of ferryboats. Now, the ferries’ horns have some of them squawking and blaming letter-of-the law kayakers for their lost sleep.

The rules of navigation enforced by the Coast Guard require ferries and other powerboats to blast their horns for several seconds before departing docks. But some people who live in apartments in Battery Park City say the ferries that cross the Hudson River were not routinely following that rule – until some kayakers complained to the United States Coast Guard.

Now, these residents say, the ferries are sounding off from 6 a.m. until late at night, disrupting the relative peace of their oasis built on landfill. One resident, Wolfgang Gabler, has posted a video of his wife and children appearing to be roused from slumber by blasts of a ferry’s horn. He even created a Facebook page titled “Stop Honking Ferries in New York City.”

Early this month, Mr. Gabler wrote an open letter to his neighbors about the honking on a Web site devoted to happenings in Lower Manhattan. The Web site’s editor, Steven Greer, reported that the instigator of the cacophony was Nancy Brous, a Manhattan resident who heads the New York City Water Trail Association. He even posted a picture of Ms. Brous paddling a kayak.

Ms. Brous was none too happy about being portrayed as a whistle-blower who caused so many horns to be blown. In an interview last week, she insisted that “this isn’t a battle between kayakers and ferries.”

She admitted that she had been trying for two years to persuade the Coast Guard to enforce the rule. At the urging of a Coast Guard official, she said, she had encouraged other paddlers to make note of the failure of ferries to comply. She compiled those notes – and even a video one kayaker shot aboard an East River ferry that did not honk — and forwarded them to the Coast Guard, she said.

Happily, Ms. Brous said, “I have heard that ferries all over have been blasting more now.” She said that she did not understand why anybody would want to vilify kayakers for seeking to have much bigger boats follow a rule that was written for the safety of everybody on the water.

Asking that ferries not blow their horns for fear of waking someone, she said, “is like saying, ‘Don’t run a siren on a fire engine.’”

Charles Rowe, a spokesman for the Coast Guard, said that the Coast Guard investigated the kayakers’ complaints and found that they “merited action.” The Cost Guard reminded the ferry operators” that they had to sound their horns as required,” Mr. Rowe said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s the Staten Island ferry or any of these other ones.”

For its part, Billybey Ferry said through a spokesman: “We are aware that the sounding of our horns may cause a disturbance to residents in the neighborhoods near where our ferries land, including Battery Park City.” The spokesman, Damiano DeMonte, added, “We hope that our neighbors can appreciate our need to operate in strict compliance with U.S. Coast Guard rules governing the safe operation of our shared waterways.”

Eric Stiller, whose company, Manhattan Kayak, operates kayak and paddleboard tours from Pier 66 on the Hudson, said he hoped that ferries would signal their departures more regularly. He said his guides usually swung well wide of the ferry terminal at the west end of 39th Street and had managed to avoid even a close call with an outgoing ferry.

But Mr. Stiller said he had seen up close how a kayaker might fare in a collision with a boat that can hold more than 100 commuters. A few years ago, he said, his company donated a kayak that he thought was unbreakable for a safety demonstration.

The ferry “sliced it in half,” he recalled. Until that day, Mr. Stiller said, he thought that a kayaker who went “under a ferry” would have an interesting story to tell. “Not anymore,” he said.

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July 23: Where the Candidates Are Today


Native Speaker by Chang-rae LeeThe current mayoral race provides a fitting occasion to read “Native Speaker,” Chang-rae Lee’s 1995 novel of ethnicity and city politics. In it readers meet Henry Park, a son of Korean immigrants who uneasily assimilates into New York life. As a private intelligence operative, Park infiltrates the team of a popular Korean-American city councilman with bigger ambitions and a bitter grip on American culture.

The Big City Book Club will convene online to discuss the novel on Tuesday, Aug. 13 at 6:30 p.m.



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New York Today: Royal Reaction

Updated, 6:58 a.m. |

When the former Kate Middleton visited the United States for the first time two years ago, she and Prince William skipped New York.

We forgive the slight. But the city is ready to meet the royal baby.

On Tuesday, British-themed bars and restaurants are planning to continue their celebrations. In Greenwich Village’s “Little Britain,” Tea & Sympathy is holding a name contest — guess right, and you might win a meal.

And with the day’s rainy weather, Londoners will be right at home.

After all, we have Queens too.

WEATHER

Soaking rains, with a high of 85 degrees. At night temperatures will drop to 73 degrees.Click here for more information.

TRAFFIC & TRANSIT

Mass Transit: [6:58] Subways are O.K. Click for current M.T.A. status.

Roads: [6:58] Traffic is moving well. Click for traffic updates.

Alternate side parking rules: in effect.

COMING UP TODAY

• Former Gov. George E. Pataki is expected to testify in a trial stemming from a lawsuit by convicted sexual offenders who claimed they were wrongly confined in state psychiatric hospitals after they had completed their criminal sentences.

• Bill deBalsio will participate in a live chat organized by The Daily News at 2 p.m. Later, he and Anthony D. Weiner will speak at the Gay Men’s Health Crisis Mayoral Forum on HIV/AIDS.

• Closing arguments are likely in the death penalty trial for Ronell Wilson, who murdered two undercover detectives and, while in prison, fathered a child with a corrections officer.

• The Metropolitan Opera’s summer recital series comes to Crotona Park, the Bronx. 7 p.m. [Free]

• And a little lower-brow: “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted” screens at Hunts Point Recreation Center, also in the Bronx. 8 p.m. [Free]

• Celebrate the 200th birthdays of Verdi and Wagner at the Washington Square Park Music Festival. 8 p.m. [Free]

• Students from the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music strut their stuff in the “Stars of Tomorrow” series on Pier 45, Hudson River Park. 6:30 p.m. [Free]

• A jazzy new musical version of Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost” opens at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. 8:30 p.m. [Free, but you better be in line already.]

• Grand Central Station becomes a gallery for an exhibit of photos of the Second Avenue Access subway project by Hiroyuki Suzuki. [Free]

• Listen to Yusef Komunyakaa and other poets read in the High Line amphitheater (at 16th Street). 6:30 p.m. [Free]

IN THE NEWS

• Emergency crews resorted to paper and pens when the city’s 911 system crashed again on Monday. [New York Times]

• Ten were hurt after a plane’s landing gear collapsed at La Guardia Airport, temporarily shutting it down. [New York Times]

• Want a parking space in Park Slope? Got $80,000? [CBS]

• Firefighters bring the heat with a new charity calendar. [DNA Info]

• An overturned tractor-trailer dumped beer all over the Bruckner Expressway on Monday. [ABC]

• A Staten Island man accused of being a serial killer fired his lawyer at a pretrial hearing. He will represent himself. [New York Post]

• An overloaded outlet sparked a fire that injured 19 firefighters in Manhattan, officials say. [New York Post]

• Eliot Spitzer tells women “I failed, big time” in a new political ad. [NY 1]

• On Monday we told you the that governor and the mayor were in a rafting competition. The outcome? The governor won. [NY1]

AND FINALLY…

It’s National Moth Week, and New York City is no exception. Tonight there is a nighttime “moth madness” gathering for families at the Staten Island Museum (which recently hosted a cicada singles party).

Or go “mothing” — hunting the creatures with a flashlight and a big white sheet — at several events across the region.


Michaelle Bond ontributed reporting.

We’re testing New York Today, which we put together just before dawn and update until noon.

What information would you like to see here when you wake up to help you plan your day? Tell us in the comments, send suggestions to Sarah Maslin Nir or tweet them at @nytmetro using #NYToday. Thanks!

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Revisiting History Through Objects, and a Long-Gone Game Show

Tracing history through objects is popular these days. Neil McGregor, the director of the British Museum, did it in 700 best-selling pages, and for the last couple of months, the New-York Historical Society has had an exhibition called “The Civil War in 50 Objects.”

Finding the 50 objects involves something of a scavenger hunt — they are on display in different places at the society, at 170 Central Park West, at West 77th Street. All 50 came from the society’s collection of about 1 million Civil War-era items, “a definitive record of slavery, secession, rebellion and reunion from the time these movements first roiled the city and the nation,” according to the Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer. He made the final decisions on which 50 objects were chosen, and which were not, after members of the museum’s staff had winnowed the possibilities to 75.

The 50 objects hint at politics and power — in a gallery on the second floor are the laurel leaves that lined Lincoln’s bier when his body lay in state at City Hall. But some of the objects touch on the ordinary. There is a footlocker stocked with the wartime supplies and gear of a Union Army mapmaker.

But when the 380-page companion book landed on my desk, the first thing that came to mind was: This is not new. What popped into my head was an almost-50-year-old memory that illustrates the place that objects have in history.

This is a memory that risks trivializing objects that tell important stories, for it is the memory of a child — me — and a game show that was on when I was sick and stayed home in the cold winter of third grade, a game show called “The Object Is.” It was on the air for only 13 weeks in late 1963 and early 1964 and starred Dick Clark, already famous for “American Bandstand” but not yet a mainstay of New Year’s Eve countdowns. It opened with a deep-voiced announcer explaining the premise, which was not that different from telling the story of human history (or the Civil War) through objects.

“Every famous person, living or dead, real or fictional, can be associated with objects,” the announcer declared. “If the object is a kite, you think of Benjamin Franklin.” If the clue was an apple, he continued, the person could be Sir Isaac Newton or William Tell. But if a second clue was an arrow, “you know it’s William Tell.”

In the first episode, the one that turned up on YouTube after Mr. Clark’s death last year, the contestants mentioned Davy Crockett, Charles A. Lindbergh and the conductor Leopold Stokowski, among others. One of those contestants was a man named Gerald Huckaby, whom the announcer introduced, with no hint of humor, as “a bachelor professor at a girls’ college.”

I tracked him down to see what he remembered.

Not much, it turned out, because he had been a contestant on more game shows than he could keep track of.

He mentioned “Your Surprise Package,” a game show on CBS in 1961 and 1962 with George Fennaman (who had been Groucho Marx’s sidekick on “You Bet Your Life,” later syndicated as “The Best of Groucho.”) “They liked the way I was excited on camera,” he recalled, “and they asked me to be on a number of first-time quiz shows.” “The Object Is” was one of them, he said after watching the episode on YouTube.

But “The Object Is” was no thrill-a-minute production. “Between shots,” he said, “they had so many pauses that I would be reading the ‘Odyssey,’ because that’s what I was teaching.”

Mr. Huckaby, 80, said he spent 19 years on the faculty at Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles, the alma mater of the actress Angie Dickinson and the novelist Helen Maria Viramontes. Several years after he appeared on “The Object Is,” he wrote a book of poems that was illustrated by Corita Kent, who, as Sister Mary Corita, had been the chairwoman of the art department at Immaculate Heart. (As the antiwar protests of the 1960s gained momentum, she became known for silk-screen images of love and peace. She designed a “love” stamp issued in 1985, the year before her death.)

He also lost his status as a bachelor professor. He married one of his students.

Ever the English professor, he was careful about the sequence of tenses. “She wasn’t a student when I married her,” he said. “She had been my student.”

“I was the moderator for the school newspaper,” he said. “She was on the staff. We had our end-of-the-year banquet. It happened to be on my birthday. She walks up to me and says, ‘It’s my birthday, too.’”

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